A decision by district council last week to quietly disband the Sooke Fire Services Commission has enflamed members of the commission.
“The commission is aghast, to be completely honest,” said commission chair Ken Ebbs-Canavan. “We have no idea why. We weren’t given a reason.”
The commission was created by council a year ago to conduct “long-term capital planning [with] high level overview,” according to a staff report. The overview included budgets, research, and to look at staffing levels and equipment replacement, among other items.
The commission was expected to have a two-year mandate, with council having the option to review it after one year.
Council in an in-camera meeting on Oct. 11 decided to dissolve the fire commission.
“The commission met our targets,” said Mayor Maja Tait. “It has given us things to contemplate as we move forward and continue our reorganization.”
The commission was informed of its demise through email, said Ebbs-Canavan, adding the commission was close to finishing its final report.
“For us not to be able to give the report to the citizens of this community, I’m absolutely aghast because this was what we were asked to do,” he said.
Earlier this year, at an open council meeting, the commission presented a general report and also made budget recommendations. Those items were accepted unanimously by council. In May, other recommendations on personnel and on the provincially-mandated fire audit were presented to council in-camera.
Up to that point there was a free flow of information, Ebbs-Canavan said.
But things changed – among them was the commission not allowed to talk to interim fire chief Russ Cameron. Information from municipal hall was also limited.
Council never met with the commission, Tait said because of the structure of a commission. A commission has different rules of order from a committee, where there is a council liaison and the mayor has ex officio status.
With a commission, staff meet with commission members, in this case in-camera, and report to the chief administrative officer.
Neither Tait or CAO Teresa Sullivan would comment on anything from in-camera meetings.
Tait said she was unaware of the commission being close to completing its final report.
“It just seemed timely to end the commission. We’re entering into our strategic planning and we also had a commission member resign. We would have to advertise for a new member before [it] could continue, so it just seemed like a natural standpoint to come to an end,” she said.
The Sooke Fire Services Commission included Ebbs-Canavan, Cameron MacIntyre and Murray Lambert. Commission members receive an annual honourarium of $2,500.